Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has written a letter to a group of survivors from the Grenfell Tower disaster, to apologise for the offence caused by the team partnering with insulation firm Kingspan.
He stopped short of ending the sponsorship altogether, and said the team “engaged with Kingspan in depth” and asked about the accusations made against them about their involvement in the tragedy in 2017, which killed 72 people when the high-rise building caught fire and moved through the building rapidly.
Wolff did offer to meet with those affected “as soon as we can”, so he is able to understand the other side of the story.
Grenfell United, who represent survivors and bereaved families from the tragedy, said Mercedes’ announcement of their partnership with Kingspan “shattered us”, and accused the company of playing a “central role” in the spread of the fire due to how their insulation was constructed.
Kingspan themselves firmly deny the accusations levelled against them, saying that they had no involvement in the design or construction of the cladding in the tower, and the use of their product was without their knowledge.
British government minister Michael Gove said he was “deeply disappointed” by Mercedes’ deal with Kingspan, and he will ask them to reconsider their sponsorship arrangement with them.
This was echoed on the government opposition benches by Labour MP Lisa Nandy, who called the partnership “deeply disrespectful” to those affected.
This news has shattered us. @KingspanIP_UK is rotten to the core 'little better than crooks & killers'. No remorse, or responsibility for the murder of our 72. Only greed & recklessness for human life.
— Grenfell United (@GrenfellUnited) December 2, 2021
“Dear Grenfell United,” read the letter from the Mercedes CEO.
“Thank you for your letter about our partnership with Kingspan, which I received yesterday. The tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire was beyond imaginable to me, and it should never have happened.
“On behalf of our team, I would sincerely like to apologise to you for the additional hurt that this announcement has caused. It was never our intention to do so.
“The work of the public inquiry to establish the full causes of the tragedy is crucially important. Prior to concluding our partnership, we engaged with Kingspan in depth to understand what role their products played in what happened at Grenfell.
“Kingspan have stated that they played no role in the design or construction of the cladding system on Grenfell Tower, and that a small percentage of their product was used as a substitute without their knowledge in part of the system which was not compliant with building regulations and was unsafe.
“I know that this does not change in any way the awful tragedy you suffered, or the deep and ongoing pain felt in your community, and I would like to thank Grenfell United for the offer to meet in person for me to learn and understand better.
“I look forward to coming together as soon as we can.
“With my kind regards, Toto Wolff.”